Funded under the Information and Communication Technologies programme of Horizon 2020’s Industrial Leadership component, and its call for collective awareness platforms for sustainability and social innovation, the Families_Share project is developing a social networking and awareness-raising platform dedicated to encouraging childcare and work/life balance. The platform capitalises on neighbourhood networks and enables citizens to come together to share tasks, time and skills relevant to childcare and after-school education/leisure, where these have become unaffordable in times of stagnation and austerity.
Balancing work and family life has become increasingly challenging in the last decade in Europe. The economic crisis has had a twofold effect, impacting labour market conditions on the one hand, and welfare provisions on the other. As a result, unemployment rates have risen (mainly in male-dominated sectors), while more women (including mothers) are working on a part-time basis. Stable jobs can no longer be taken for granted and precarious contracts are increasingly widespread, with many workers entering re-qualification schemes and facing periods of unemployment. A shrinking workforce of permanent workers is subject to augmented workloads and longer working hours, making the balance between work and everyday life more difficult, and the current model unsustainable.
As a result of budget cuts in public welfare expenditure, in many European cities the available childcare services are insufficient, putting families with children under significant pressure. After-school activities have also become a luxury that low- and medium-income families can rarely afford, leading to impoverishment in terms of learning and educational opportunities for children. At the same time, members of neighbourhoods and communities are often isolated.
The Families_Share project offers a bottom-up solution in the form of a co-designed platform supporting families to share time and tasks related to childcare, parenting, after-school and leisure activities and other household tasks — with a particular focus on low-income families. The project also aspires to engage with the elderly by involving them in childcare activities and by offering them support in shopping and administrative tasks, but also by involving them in family events. To achieve this objective, the project borrows and integrates the concepts of time banking, capitalising on consortium members’ existing digital social innovations in the childcare field. It also exploits the potential of information and communication technology (ICT) networks to increase participatory innovation by encouraging self-organising neighbourhoods.